TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature

TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature

by Julianne Skai Arbor

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692726044
Publisher: TreeGirl Studios LLC
Publication date: 01/15/2017
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 603,136
Product dimensions: 11.10(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Julianne Skai Arbor, aka TreeGirl, has been on the forefront of the fields of ecotherapy and nature connection since she began creating self-portraits with trees in 1995. To date, she has intertwined with over seventy species of trees in thirteen countries. She is certified as an arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture, as a California naturalist with the University of California, and has taught interdisciplinary college-level conservation education for over ten years, including pioneering the first program in environmental arts. She holds graduate degrees in Environmental Education and Arts and Consciousness Studies. With her passion for trees she creates an experiential bridge to connect people with nature through forest ecotherapy, portrait sessions, and immersive nature retreats with trees around the world. She lives in Sonoma County, California amidst the native oak and coast redwood trees. Her gallery of images can be found at www.TreeGirl.org.

Read an Excerpt

Foreword

This book is not just about trees; it is also about responsibility and freedom. Responsibility because TreeGirl dares to talk about the things that really matter, by which I mean our part in Nature, and the imminent necessity to attune again to the life rhythms of planet Earth instead of believing stoically that everything is just there to be consumed by our species. For millennia, cultures have cared about the environment, and the secret of their success was a bond with Nature—personal, emotional, mythical, and experiential. The modern age has tried to replace that with "reason" alone. But being presented graphs of carbon dioxide emissions just doesn't do the trick of getting anyone moving, does it? It just disempowers us; "oh, let them do it! I am no expert." Fact is, "they" don't know either just how complex the interconnections of the elements of life are, and "they" don't really change our self-destructive course either. It takes all of us to do something, and what stimulates us to get going is beauty, emotion, and personal experience.

As for freedom, our media keep telling us that we live in the free Western world and that nobody ever was luckier. We have credit cards and smartphones, don't we? Just how "free" we really are you can tell in the moment we lose them. There is a new term for this dawning among sociologists and psychologists: it's addiction. What freedom really means I understood when I read Wilfred Pelletier's book No Foreign Land. Pelletier (1927 - 2000) was a Native American who tried to live in the white man's world for a few years. When returning to the Odawa reservation he fully recognized what freedom means to the Natives; he could wander in the wilderness with no need to "return" somewhere, he had everything he needed—his survival skills and a knife—and could be home everywhere in Nature. No dependence on gadgets, social status, an income, or bureaucracy. Life can be simple. And joyful.

And joy is something that TreeGirl really can teach! It is amazing to see someone moving in the wildwood with such trust and openness. I think she has found a way to revive that same joy and gratitude that people in ancient times all around the planet felt in their traditional sacred groves. Because in early history, humankind contemplated the eternal questions, meditated and prayed, and made offerings of gratitude to the life force mostly beneath trees. Trees have always been regarded as kind bridges between the human world and Spirit. Even the white marble splendour of the Acropolis was only there to honour Athena's sacred Olive tree which stood in the centre of her sanctuary. In fact, all deities of ancient Greece had their associated tree species, and ethnologists deem it highly probable that the Greek pantheon evolved from tree spirits in the first place. Rome itself had just as many sacred groves as the Celtic and Germanic woodland tribes. And so did the ancient Hebrews—Christian anthropologists of the 19th century were surprised to see just how much tree worship there was in the Holy Land, and how peacefully it co-existed with early monotheism. And Jesus was a teacher of the ancient Olive grove of Gethsemane—after the last supper "he went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, accompanied by the disciples" (Lk. 22. 39).

The mythical symbol of the World Tree was known on all continents (except Antarctica). In Asia Minor it was dominantly referred to as the Tree of Life, standing at the heart of paradise. The Quran adapted it from the Old Testament, and it can be traced back to ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets. The World Tree is perhaps the most ecological of mythical images because it denotes the unity and interconnectedness of all life, and describes the biosphere as one huge organism. As the English poet, painter and visionary William Blake (1757–1827) says: "For everything that lives is holy. Life delights in life."

The notion that the whole Earth is alive and that it has a spirit did not, as most people think, disappear with Christianity. Rather, the change came with the ‘Enlightenment’, the ‘age of reason’ and its mechanistic science which declared the material world as void of spirit. As the biologist Rupert Sheldrake says: ‘Until the seventeenth century, university scholars and Christian theologians taught that the universe was alive, pervaded by the Spirit of God, the divine breath of life. All plants, animals and people had souls. The stars, the planets and the earth were living beings, guided by angelic intelligences.’1 Seeing Nature as a mechanical, inanimate system may offer many comforts; it grants the delusion that we are in control and that we, the "crown of creation", have risen above the animistic, superstitious ways of primitive peoples. But by omitting the 'mother' in Mother Nature we only manage to force our recognition of the mother principle into the subconscious. And, ironically, "matter" (Latin materia) stems from "mother" (mater).

Through outdoor education, psychology has recently begun to recognize that all living beings are a part of us; a child discovers a new part of herself every time she encounters an animal or a plant. And often children express this in play, by wanting to be a tiger or a horse, a bird or a crocodile. Soon after "mama" and "papa", animal names form part of the earliest vocabulary of toddlers. And although animals are closer to us emotionally, plants and trees too create unique individual sensations of self in a child (and in grown-ups too, if we care to recognize them). In the presence of an Oak we discover new variations of our sense of identity. There is another world waiting for us at the Redwood, just as rooted in our ancient soul, just as unawakened. Elm, Beech and Maple too are gates to other dimensions of our greater self. Beneath each tree there is an experience of self-discovery awaiting us—are you ready to explore it? TreeGirl surely lives by example. The Earth is not just physical; it is also a landscape of the soul. The segregation of inner and outer is imaginary.

So if inside and outside are a reflection of each other, what does nudity mean in these pictures from the wildwood? In the sacred space of the paradisiacal grove untouched by human greed, nakedness is an expression of trust, of respect, of love, of innocence. "See? I bring no weapons, no secret agenda. And I make myself vulnerable because I really want to see the true You." Or in the words of TreeGirl herself: "To be alive on the planet is to surrender to being her partner. To be in service of the Earth is to be enraptured by her."

I also give TreeGirl ten out of ten for photography. Light, contrast, composition are all highly enjoyable. But most noteworthy is the fact that—while trees in Western art have for centuries merely provided backgrounds for anthropocentric scenes—here trees are never reduced to serve the human story. I delight how in each photo the human figure gracefully finds their place within the tree, adding a new note to the tree's song, with a heart always beating to the tree's drum.

Enjoy TreeGirl's journeys, and enjoy your own!

Fred Hageneder, August 2016

www.themeaningoftrees.com

1 Sheldrake, Rupert, 2013. "The Science Delusion", Coronet, London, p.21

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
TreeGirl's World Map. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Chapter 1: Lovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
African Baobab. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Antarctic Beech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Big Leaf Maple. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Blackbutt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
Boab. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
Brush Box. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
California Bay Laurel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
California Buckeye. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Canyon Live Oak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42
Coast Redwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44
Chapter 2: Tree Affinity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50
European Beech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
European Yew. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58
Fony Baobab. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Giant Sequoia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Grandidier's Baobab. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68
Green Fig. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Huon Pine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
Indian Banyan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74
Kauri. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
King Billy Pine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78
Chapter 3: Touch Trees. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Little Leaf Linden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86
Mangrove. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88
Mesquite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
Monterey Cypress. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92
Morton Bay Fig. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94
Mountain Ash. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96
Northern Rata. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Nyala. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Olive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102
Oregon White Oak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
Chapter 4: The Goddess and the Green Man. . . 110
Pacific Dogwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114
Red Bloodwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Red Cedar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118
River Red Gum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
Silver Beech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
Silver Gimlet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124
Sitka Spruce. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .126
Small Leaved Fig. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128
Spotted Gum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
Sweet Chestnut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132
Chapter 5: Rewilding. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
Sycomore Fig. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
Tallowwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .146
Tanoak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148
Totara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150
Two-Needle Pinyon Pine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
Welwitschia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .154
Western Hemlock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .156
Western Redcedar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
White Birch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
White Willow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
Afterword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
The Tallest and the Smallest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
Scientific Names Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
Indigenous Names Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190

What People are Saying About This

author of Wild Girls and Conscience Point Erica Abeel

“This delightfully unique book about a woman's love affair with trees argues for returning to a conscious dialog with Nature and appreciating its mysteries. The stunning photos of the author's naked body all but merging with Baobob trees and other magnificent specimens, offers a romance of the senses. TREEGIRL yields the perfect antidote to our technology-addicted world.”

Dr. Joe Hinds

"In the steps of Thomas Pakenham, TreeGirl has produced a unique work that combines a personal (physical & spiritual) ecopsychological connection with a historical and naturalist’s understanding of trees. TreeGirl’s iconic book is an artful mix of the female and arboreal form."

Michael Harner

"An art form that deserves world recognition… I have never seen anything like it. The closest thing it reminds me of are Van Gogh’s hidden images of spirits in some of his paintings…Things like this will make a difference.”

Derrick Jensen

"TreeGirl is a force of nature. She is a powerful friend and ally to trees. If we are to survive, we all must fall in love with the natural world, and fight to protect it. TreeGirl helps us to remember our place in the natural world."

Richard Heinberg

"Julianne Skai Arbor is a tree hugger—literally, and for good reason: she understands the ecological, cultural, and economic importance of trees. This book offers far more than photography: it deeply informs us about trees—their botanical characteristics and their vital place in human culture for countless millennia. The result is a masterpiece that defies categorization but is easy to enjoy."

author of Tending the Wild: Native American Kn M. Kat Anderson

"Julianne Skai Arbor’s stunning photographs state grand truths— that the earth is our mother,we are part of her, and she has much divine wisdom to teach us. Arbor’s naked, dependent vulnerability speaks courageously to the unmasking of our society’s illusion that setting aside more wilderness and our technological fixes are the answers to solving our environmental crisis and biodiversity losses. They are not. This beautiful book is about building a new indigenous culture of place—where treegirls and treeboys become household words and our species is called to move ever more frequently from our heads down into our hearts—restoring that ancient, deep, rich and essential personal relationship with nature using the full spectrum of our humanity. It is us as artists, stewards, storytellers, foragers, mythmakers, singers, and reverencers who— in reuniting with nature—will ultimately heal the planet and ourselves."

Thomas Pakenham – author of Meetings with Remarkable Trees

"A love poem to trees."

Tina Fields

Julianne Skai Arbor's beautiful photography and writing serve as an inspiring reminder that the more-than-human world awaits not only our appreciation but also our intimate friendship.

author of Drawdown:: The Most Comprehensiv Paul Hawken

“The juxtapositions inTree Girl create tension, a startled moment where different forms of beauty and life are

unexpectedly entwined, where the ancient meets the pristine, old bark and new skin. With her loving embrace,

Julianne melts the categories with which we divide this world—trees, humans, soil, sky. Seeing nature and life as

other than ourselves allowed humans to dominate the earth and desecrate the forests, fields, and waters without a

qualm. Some may ask why a woman nude in a tree? The physical and venerable glory of two sinuous life forms,

human and arboreal, asks us why are we denuding the earth. If we lose the forests, we are all lost.

Think of Tree Girl as a vulnerable prayer to what makes us humane and kind.”

Dr. Jorge Conesa-Sevilla

"Julianne Skai Arbor’s indefatigable photographic and personal journey is a visually honest record that both transcends and concretizes the sometimes ambiguously employed phrase “nature connection.” Ecopsychologically speaking, the intimate and loving proximity of her nude body to the robustness and grace of grand-old trees creates a modern Celtic Ogham."

author of Active Hope and Coming Back to Life Joanna Macy

"Sheer beauty."

Founder and Photographer - the Embody Project Erica Mueller

"A brilliant body of work! Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature is the perfect marriage: gorgeous nude fine-art photography book meets arboriculturist's master class. TreeGirl has set a new precedent for us all to see—and know—ourselves as one with wild nature."

Phillip Carr-Gomm

"Trees and naked bodies – why put them together? The environment is under siege, trees need protection and need our respect and love. Do we need to add human bodies into the picture? Pick up TreeGirl, look through its amazing photographs, and the answer is clear. By photographing trees in conjunction with her naked body, the author has created a work that is moving and meaningful. Our shared creatureliness, vulnerability and interconnectedness with the life of trees is conveyed with great beauty and power. It encourages us to let go of our shyness, our inhibitions, to instead celebrate our relationship to these mighty beings who are so peaceful and yet so powerful. In this large, full-colour book, Julianne Skai Arbor has combined her knowledge as an arborist with her skills as a photographer, and has travelled the world, seeking out the most extraordinary trees to photograph with her body. The result is truly breath-taking. The fact that all the photographs feature the same person reinforces the sense of relationship between tree and human. Just as in a story we can identify more fully if there is one main character, so we journey around the world with Julianne, encountering amazing specimens, which often seem to tower over Julianne, or which enfold her tenderly in their embrace. The book begins with an excellent foreword by Fred Hageneder, known to many as an expert on Yew trees, and then provides us with insights into tree-lore, the botany of trees, and their spiritual dimensions. This book is full of beautiful photography, but it is much more than that. It brings messages, inspiration, and a determination that we should do more to protect these beings that we might call our brothers or sisters, but are perhaps our elders. We have Julianne’s book on our coffee table. Visitors are immediately drawn to it and love to leaf through it, gasping at the surprises it holds in store for them. We just enjoy watching their reactions to this very unusual book!”

Interviews

What makes TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature unique:

1. The Tree-Human Connection: Although there are a number of photography books with trees as their subject, none of them address the symbiosis and enchantment of the human–tree relationship. None truly demonstrate through words or pictures the profound, intimate, or sensual connection humans have—and can have psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually—directly with trees.

2. The Holistic Perspective: This is a new perspective on trees, bridging art with ecospirituality, ecopsychology, and ecology.

3. The Ecopsychology Perspective: Ecopsychology is an increasingly important fields of psychology, sociology and environmental awareness. Ecopsychology, in essence, is the discipline ofunderstanding of our modern cultural disconnection from the Earth. The conscious and unconscious knowing that our home, planet Earth, is being destroyed, is causing massive psychological grief, anxiety, denial, trauma, dysfunction, as well as physical illness. Ecotherapy is the therapeutic practice: Nature is healing because we are Nature, and essentially, ecotherapy is coming back home. This is the first book of its kind, to combine ecopsychology with art.

4. The Female Perspective: Most authors and photographers of tree books are men. TreeGirl is written and photographed from the voice and perspective of a female who vulnerably shares herself with the audience, both physically and spiritually. The passion, love, and endearment that inherently exists between women and Nature, inclusive of an ecofeminist and goddess cultural perspective, is reflected.

5. The Tree Professional Perspective: Most notably, although many of tree book authors are renowned in their fields of photography and many of them are tree enthusiasts, none of them are certified arborists with the International Society of Arboriculture, with the knowledge of a trained tree professional. This book contains detailed and organized ecological and ethnobotanical information, researched in depth, in an easy-to-read reference format not found in any similar book. Additionally, TreeGirl showcases certain tree species not found in any of these books, which makes it attractive to consumers who already own some of these books.

6. Sensual and Fine Art Nude Photography Perspective: The quality of TreeGirl photographs is higher for many of the species presented (in some cases, the same individual tree pictured) than similar books in this genre. It is the incorporation of fine-art nude photography that makes TreeGirl stand out from every other book. When comparing the other tree book photos, which include clothed people standing in awe to the side of the tree, there is something unnatural that detracts from the aesthetic of the image: The tree becomes a specimen, and the image loses its ability to be admired as an art piece hung on the wall. The classic nude is feminine, organic, and anonymous; it could be anybody––even you. This makes the message and the image more attractive: the reader gets lost in the mystery and romance of the scene. There is a resurgence of fine art nude photography as a genre, especially in nature, especially by female photographers. http://www.modelsociety.com

7. Forest Therapy Perspective: Shinrin yoku and forest bathing are gaining popularity outside of Japan as an ecotherapy trend even popular with resorts and spas, as found in many online and print magazines, including O- The Oprah Magazine. There are no books yet written specifically about Forest Therapy, except for an esoteric Japanese publication by one of the doctor’s who is researched its medical benefits. Although TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature only has part of the writing dedicated to Forest Therapy (or what the author calls Forest Ecotherapy), the entire book holds a sensory and therapeutic theme. The last chapter on rewilding and forest therapy is a forerunner to what could be a follow up publication.

8. Ethnobotany and Natural History Perspective: There are no other tree photography books that include the sciences of natural history and ethnobotany to this extent.

Preface

INTRODUCTION

This book is an invitation for you to recover your ancient bond with wild Nature—to rediscover trees as a source of intimate comfort, sensorial pleasure, and unexpected companionship, as a sanctuary from the madness of our modern, civilized world. It is an invitation to rewild your body and consciousness, to reforest your soul.

Trees are my secret love. I can gaze endlessly at their beautiful complexity, marvel at their simplicity of being, and envy their tenacious rootedness in one place. Every day, I long to be with trees, to sit under them, climb high up in them, collect their abundant gifts, learn about them, and listen to their ethereal songs in collaboration with the wind.

Instead, I spend too many days sitting in front of a screen, zooming behind a wheel, accumulating manufactured objects, and interacting with other two-leggeds and their noisy, handheld gadgets. But when I can, I steal away from the scheduled, maintained world to be alone with the trees, whose strong arms exalt the blue sky, whose gnarled roots kiss the rich earth, and whose generous, cascading foliage grants me peaceful shelter and companionship. When I am not able to be alone with trees, I dream of how one day I can disappear into the woods and simply become one of them.

Affinity for trees is undoubtedly embedded in the human psyche. The folklore, mythology, and symbology of trees are rooted in human cultures all over the world. For tens of thousands of years, people took refuge under trees, held council under trees, and depended upon trees for survival. People talked to trees, sang to them, danced under them. They tended, maintained, and harvested them for the gifts they provided, year after year, generations after generations. Trees were honored, revered, and worshipped; we lived in kinship with them.

However, we have lost our intimate bond with trees, and both they and we suffer for it. While our modern, industrial world still depends upon certain species of trees, most trees have been demoted from sacred to the status of a cash crop harvested in rows like wheat1, or a disposable urban landscape element planted for decoration, with a percentage allowed refuge within the borders of designated parks and wilderness areas. Otherwise, they appear to be there for the taking. Trees are undoubtedly one of the most vital parts of our interconnected global living system. There are currently an estimated 60,000–100,000 species of trees on the planet2, the majority of which are in tropical forests. We don't know how many there are because, like many species, we simply can't count them all. We may never identify many of them before they are lost to deforestation. Carelessly, we allow most species to diminish in the name of human progress. Their regional deforestation has led to cultural collapse more than once in history. Today, trees are being lost not only due to over-harvesting and habitat loss, but also to the spread of invasive insect pests and diseases from imbalances caused by climate change.

Trees and forest products contribute an estimated $250 billion to the economies of the developing world alone3. But trees provide us, and the rest of the planet, with much more than just measurable products and ecological services; the psychological and spiritual gifts they provide are ineffable. Why is it that we feel more relaxed, open, and at peace in the presence of trees than we do surrounded by a sea of concrete? Our sensorial bodies, our scientific minds, our feeling hearts, and our energetic spirits know the answer, and we hunger for it.

We modern industrialized humans live in a tamed world that has been mechanized, gadgetized, and sterilized; wildness has almost entirely been bulldozed, desacralized, and forgotten. Yet there are remnants of wild Nature all around us. Even in the most desolate, paved-over urban area, resident critters scavenge what they can; tenacious "weeds" bust up sidewalks; and ill-fated landscape trees with roots entombed in concrete support tiny microcosms of life invisible to us. But without continual human intervention, the built world submits to Nature's swift and willful reforestation of its ecological self4. Simply watch an abandoned urban lot re-vegetate over time: an act of ecologic integrity. In most climates, such a mini-ecosystem would eventually become a forest.

Ironically, because of humans' exploitation and, in some places, obliteration of forest ecosystems, trees now rely on us for their survival. In the case of some species, due to a lack of natural regeneration, humans are the only hope for tree propagation and restoration. But what about the restoration of our own ecological selves and the reforestation of our souls? As mammals, we are a part of Nature, even though we may feel apart from it. As modern, industrialized mammals, we have slowly dissociated ourselves psychologically from the kinship of all life5. But unconsciously and consciously, we are restless for balance, reunion, and healing, as are all the living systems of the planet that are currently in decline. We humans have a deep need for personal reconnection to the wild, not only because everything, including us, depends on it biologically, but because we depend on it psychologically and spiritually as well. We need the wild much more than we need the automated machines, petrochemicals, and economic systems we have manufactured to run our lives. We need to free the wild from the bondage of slavery and abuse we have imposed on it for thousands of years, and set it free in ourselves as well.

Therefore, in the context of this book, the wild, wildness, and wild Nature refer not to a Nature devoid of all human culture, but rather a Nature absent of an industrialized civilization that values exploitation, domination, and control over "the other" instead of coexistence within the family of things. Nature is wildness; wildness is Nature; Nature is the life force. The wild, in this sense, refers to lands, waters, and beings who have their own freedom, will6, and integrity—those that have not been subjugated by humans. This wildness is the same mysterious life-force energy and matter that is continually creating life on Earth and infinite solar systems; we humans can neither fully scientifically define nor tame it all. In fact, we must return to a relationship of alliance—a conscious dialogue with Nature of asking questions and appreciating the mystery. At the same time, we must not romanticize the wild; for this same wildness holds the power of creation as well as destruction. The Earth has its own set of "rules"; we must come into accordance with them, for the Earth with all of its abundance and power demands a participation of reciprocity.

As allies with the wild, there are a myriad of actions we must engage in order to preserve and restore the integrity of the planet: ecological restoration, environmental education, political advocacy and activism, policy reform, reducing our voracious appetite for natural resources, and powering down our energy consumption and our industrial growth society's false promise of infinite economic growth7. We must do this all with humility, integrity, ingenuity, creativity, soulfulness, and even daring. Along with these, we also must cultivate our personal relationship of love, reverence, and awe with the wild.

To reunite and belong once again to wild Nature is to choose to leave behind the artificial and managed world we humans have blindly constructed, consisting of automated buttons, touch screens, personal identification numbers, manipulated images, and decimal points. It means finding refuge from the built environment's light and noise pollution, chemical offgassing, and electromagnetic buzzing. By re-immersing ourselves in wild Nature, we desert the domesticated mind and return gracefully to the soul's vocabulary. Here we find sanctuary, freedom from the deadness of human construction, and relief from the insanity of our technology-addicted lives and the control we are constantly attempting to maintain. Our modern brains do not understand it cognitively, but our souls recognize the language of the Earth: the natural patterns, cycles, seasons, growth and decay, rhythms, systems—the relationships, the deep intertwinings. Our modern cultural consciousness is starved for and fascinated by the mysterious, complex beauty of the thriving, sometimes seemingly chaotic creative life force that is beyond our control. We hunger for a deep, rich engagement and interaction with that which is ancient to our mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Our mammalian bodies also remember and recognize the untamed world of wild Nature as our primal home. We yearn to experience all of our senses safely and feel fully comfortable in our bodies, interacting with the body of the landscape. We have cravings to walk barefoot, touch fur and feathers, climb trees and mountains, pick and gather, get wet in rain or bodies of water, dig in the moist earth or sand, explore cavernous holes, create beauty from found natural objects with our hands, to even take adventurous risks. These patterns are deeply ingrained in us. There are textures in Nature that are engaging and pleasurable to touch, colors and patterns beautiful to the eyes, fragrances intoxicating to the nose, edibles delicious to taste, sounds harmonious to our ears, and physical comforts in which we feel safe and held. These sensations may come in the delicate softness of pussy willow buds held between our fingertips; being blinded by a fruit tree exploding in spring's pink, blooming fullness; the intoxicating smell of sweet orange blossoms on the air; the taste and texture of a freshly picked fig; the rustling sound of dried leaves gently chased by the autumn wind; the physical sturdiness of a trunk or flexibility of a limb while our bodies come into tandem with a tree while climbing it. Interacting with wild Nature also engages our psychic-intuitive-spiritual senses, warming our hearts and bringing inspiration, awe, and connection.

Such unexpected stimulation can affect us so deeply that we are able, for a few moments, to abandon our minds, release our isolation, and embrace the pleasures of shared aliveness as devoted companions, as lovers with the rest of the animate world. This is a kind of intimacy with wild Nature, a romance of the senses that can at times be physically sensual, passionate, and even erotic.8When we allow ourselves to be seduced by the sensuality of wild Nature, these raw experiences can nurture and enliven the body and reawaken the soul. This experience of surrender is akin to falling into the arms of our beloved. There we can recalibrate our attention to a state of enthralled reawakening and engage in secret conversation with the living Earth—until we once again feel we belong at home. This is a sacred and dynamic conversation with Nature as mutual subject, not object. It is the true act of intimacy as an intentional collaborative act of admiration, adoration, respect, humility, vulnerability, caretaking, and reciprocity. To be alive on the planet is to surrender to being her partner. To be in service of the Earth is to be enraptured by her.

Imagine if we truly open our hearts to Nature in all its wildness and fall in love over and over again with the sacredness of this life force? I invite us modern humans to become re-enchanted with Nature, to experience intimacy and soulful engagement with trees and our more-than-human companions on this Earth. I invite us to live life embodied in our animal forms, and in our animal psyches, in a affectionate alliance with the animate land, soil, rocks, water, plants, fungi, lichen, animals, and invisible, microscopic world—the Kin-dom of Life.9

I have found my secret love in the plant kin-dom of trees. I encourage you to find your secret love in Nature as well— to find your wild within. As inspiration, I am offering you an anthology of my own private encounters with trees around the world, captured in intimate self-portrait photographs and photographs of others. Each photograph is accompanied by a short story of my encounter and relationship with the tree.

I have organized the tree photos in alphabetical order by their common name, but I also include the Latin, or scientific, name. Each of the fifty species is accompanied by a natural history to fulfill your curiosity, including other known names for the tree, distribution of the species, ecosystem type, maximum recorded age and size, distinctive characteristics, animal community, traditional and modern uses (including uses for medicine, food, fiber, tools and objects, art and ceremony, shelter), and threats to the species' survival. The better we understand our wild neighbors— friends, ancient elders, relations—the better we can appreciate, value, and be of service to these trees.

The tree species bookend five essays that each tell a different story about the human-tree relationship. "Lovers" tells of my own sensual and transmutational encounter with a tree; "Tree Affinity" explains the biology and psychology of why we are attracted to trees; "Touch Trees" examines a holistic view of arboriculture— the science of taking care of trees; and "The Goddess and the Green Man" tells the story of my own spiritual encounters with trees as these female and male Nature archetypes. The last chapter, "Rewilding," offers some accessible ways in which you can connect with Nature to rewild yourself.

Ecopsychology, in essence, is the discipline ofunderstanding our modern disconnection from the Earth. The conscious and unconscious knowing that our home, planet Earth, is being destroyed, is causing massive psychological grief, anxiety, denial, trauma, dysfunction, as well as physical illness. Ecotherapy is the therapuetic practice: Nature is healing because we are Nature, and essentially, ecotherapy is coming Home. I hope this collection of images and essays will inspire you to connect with trees, to fall in love with the wild, and to explore your own intimate encounters with Nature. As a photographer, I place myself in the landscape to show that Nature, in its inherent wildness, is where we belong— sometimes naked, sometimes vulnerable, in humility, with our shoes off and the wind blowing against our skin, ears open, listening o our lover, with all our heart and soul.

1 Andreas Feininger, Trees (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1991) p.10.

2 Colin Tudge, The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005) p.16.

3 Economic Contributions of Forests: Background Paper 1. United Nations Forum on Forests, Tenth Session, prepared March 2013.

4 Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (New York: St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books, 2007).

5 Jerome Bernstein, Living in the Borderland: The Evolution of Conscious- ness and the Challenge of Healing of Trauma (New York: Routledge, 2005).

6 The definition of the wild as having its own will is found in Dave Foreman, "Five Feathers for the Cannot Club" in The Rediscovery of the Wild (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013).

7 Richard Heinberg, Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post Carbon World (Gabriola Island, New Society Publishers, 2004).

8 The concept of eros, while it may initially take the form of passionate desire and love, it is more truly a desire for "psychic relatedness"—for interconnection and interaction with other sentient beings. Ultimately, it is the desire for wholeness.

9 From Kingdom to Kindom: Acting as if We Have Relatives. Lecture recording from Bioneers Conference of Brock Dolman, Brian Swimme and Paul Stamets, 2011.

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TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MrPooh More than 1 year ago
TreeGirl's book is a tour de force of her life's work. The book combines fine art photography, botany, and spirituality, all in a well-written and lovely well-thought-out design. The photos are truly stunning and beautiful. You can see and feel her love of trees.